SCARWAF
by Jim Foreman


CHAPTER FIFTEEN


           
It was less than a month before we were scheduled to ship out and because there was so much work to be done, all leaves had been cancelled. Over the phone, Janet suggested, "If you would let me drive your car, I'd come out there to see you. I could get there on a Friday and we would have a whole weekend to ourselves."
       This was the best suggestion that I'd heard in a long time. I told the Captain about Janet coming and not only did I get the weekend off, but he extended it to a three-day pass which meant that I could leave on Thursday afternoon and not have to return until Tuesday morning. I'm sure that having been in the service as long as he had, He knew the importance of a few days with your loved one before going overseas.
       When Janet arrived, I already had the weekend planned. I had reservations for two rooms at the Tahoe Inn, along with tickets for the stage show in the club. By taking the back route through Grass Valley, it was only an hour's drive through cool pine forests to the beautiful lake nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
       The Tahoe Inn was situated astride the border and had a white line painted down the middle of the lobby indicating which half was in California and which half was in Nevada. There were wall to wall slot machines on the Nevada side where gambling was allowed. Our rooms were on the California side of the hotel.
       The bell boy carried our bags to our rooms, which just happened to be next to one another and shared a common balcony. The balcony faced out toward the mountains on the other side of the beautiful blue waters of Lake Tahoe. What a setup, I could walk out my door, across the balcony and in her door. As soon as he left, we were in each other's arms. It wasn't long before her sweater and bra were on a chair and I was cuddling those beautiful breasts. The crisp mountain air caused little goose bumps to pop on them in spite of my efforts to keep them warm with my hands. I slid my hand between her legs, but as usual, she stopped me with that same old line, "Not until we are married."
       "But darling," I protested. "We love each other and are going to get married anyway."
       "I want to make love as badly as you, but I just wasn't brought up that way."
       "But, I'm going off to the war. Suppose that I don't come back. What harm would just this one time cause?" I'd seen that old line used many times in the movies and it always seemed to work for them.
       "We could get married in a few minutes in Nevada, and then this would be our honeymoon. We could make love all that we wanted to," whispered Janet.
       I'll have to admit that the temptation was awfully strong to rush across the state line and tie the knot at one of the many wedding-while-you-wait places which lined the road, but I still wasn't sure that was what I really wanted to do. I knew that I loved her, or at least liked her a lot, but marriage is for a lifetime and I was far from certain what the next six months of my lifetime would be like.
       "Janet, I thought that we'd been through all of this before and that we would get married as soon as I got out of the army. I realize that I've been extended three more months, but the news says that we should all be home by Christmas. Five or six months isn't that long to wait."
       "I don't think that you love me at all," she replied as she began to cry.
       I held her close for a while, with neither of saying anything. She then dried her eyes on the pillow case, gave me a long, wet kiss and said, "I suppose that I'm just being selfish and I couldn't stand it if something happened to you and I had refused you this way." With that, she stepped out of her skirt and panties and slipped between the sheets. The next three days were sheer bliss. We made love, took showers together, watched sunsets and made love some more. We even attended a stage show, more to recoup our strength than to see the show.  

       Janet dropped me off at Camp Beale in time to keep from being listed AWOL on Tuesday morning and drove away toward Texas. I was totally exhausted and my eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep. As she disappeared from sight, a sudden chilling thought occurred to me, suppose that after that weekend of lovemaking, she was pregnant. If she wasn't, it certainly was not because she hadn't had the opportunity. I knew that I hadn't used any sort of protection and didn't figure that she had either. At times when one is so totally involved in frantic lovemaking, they never think about things like that. In fact, had she turned around and came back, I would have married her on the spot out of sheer guilt.
       I finally consoled myself with the thought that we were going to get married anyway and since I had only six months left to serve, I'd be back before the baby came. It would be one of those hurry-up weddings and people would talk, but who cares. I spent the rest of the day deep in thought about those three wonderful days of bliss and lovemaking.
       We walked back into the barracks after retreat formation, dumped our field packs on the floor and locked our rifles in the rack which was standing in the middle of the room.
       "Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! Nothing but Bullshit!" shouted Lester Price. "Here it is Friday night, we just got paid and there's nothing to do except sit around here, scratch ourselves and look at each other."
       "One week from today we will be on a ship bound for Korea," said Billy Bob. "There has got to be something that we can celebrate."
       "Well, this is November third and it just happens to be my twenty-third birthday," I replied. "You can celebrate my birthday if you like."
       "Great idea," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "Let's go into town and have a going away party for Foreman's birthday. We can make it a party to remember."
       "I know just the place to have the party," said Bobby Ward. "There is a restaurant over in Yuba City where they have an all you can eat seafood buffet for three bucks a head and half price drinks every Friday night. Must be something special for Catholics."
       "Well, I'm certainly not Catholic, but I like shrimp as well as the next person," I said. "My Great Grandfather fought along side General Sam Houston at San Jacinto in the war with Mexico in an effort to drive the mackerel-snappers out of Texas."
       "You say that you had ancestors who fought in the Texas Revolution?" asked Billy Bob. "I had relatives who died at Goliad."
       "That's too bad," I replied. "Everyone who fought for the Republic of Texas received land in one form or another. Those who lived through the war got a League and a Labor while those who died got nothing but a three by six hole in the ground."
       "What is a League and a Labor?" asked Red.
       "They are Spanish land measurements," I answered. "A League is nearly three thousand acres and as Labor is about a hundred- eighty. How much each person actually received depended on the honesty and ability of the surveyor who marked it off."
       "Your kinfolks still have that land?" asked Billy Bob.
       "Hell no," I replied. "Swindler and shyster lawyers were out in force as soon as the war was over and came up with nearly every acre in their names within a year. When Great-grandpa Green Foreman died, he didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.
        "How come your kin folks hated the Catholics so much?" asked Red Ryder.
       "Well," I told him. "In 1825, when my kin moved west from Kentucky, the Mexicans and bead-counters had such a hold on Texas that no person was allowed to own land, have a business or even get married unless he was a Catholic. Being more or less good Methodists, a bunch of them got together and decided to kick a few asses and bring their own brand of religion to the state. They won the war, but while they were busy whipping Santa Anna and gaining independence for Texas, the Baptists and Philadelphia lawyers sneaked in and took over. Now they are just about as bad as the Catholics and Mexicans ever were."
       "Know how to tell a dead lawyer in the road from a dead skunk?" asked Billy Bob.
       "No, how?" replied Red.
       "Ain't no skid marks in front of the lawyer," replied Billy Bob.
       "A birthday party for you is a great idea," said Red Ryder. "But just how are we going to go about getting to town and back? Too bad that good looking girlfriend of yours isn't still here with your car."
       "If she was, I'd have something to do which would be a lot more fun than hanging out with you guys."
       "I'll bet that she gave you a real birthday present while you were up at Lake Tahoe for a whole weekend," said Billy Bob.
       "Was it as good as she looks?" asked Red.
       "I'll never tell," I replied as I tried to change the subject. "Wonder if we could get a taxi to come out here after us."
       "I'll bet that he didn't get any," said Lester.
       "You'd lose," said Billy Bob. "When they got back, Foreman was so pussy-whipped that he could hardly walk and she had a smile on her face that an undertaker couldn't remove."
       "Back to our original problem. How are we going to get to town for this party?" asked Red.
       "A taxi would charge us an arm and a leg to come all the way out here, but I know how we can get to town and back," said Billy Bob. "There is a brand new Air Force bus down at the motor pool. It came in about a week ago and is just sitting there. We'll take it."
       "You'll get your ass thrown in the stockade for stealing a bus," I told him.
       "No problem, I won't be stealing it," said Billy Bob. "I'll just sign it out for a trip to town and list myself as the driver. I do it all of the time."

       Twenty minutes later, Billy Bob pulled up in the shiny new blue bus. "Hop in," he yelled. "We got wheels and we got a party to go to."
       We picked up half a dozen other members of the 1903rd who were trying to hitch rides and headed for the road to town. As we approached the main gate, an Air Force Policeman stepped out to stop us.
       "How are you going to explain our using this bus to that guard?" I asked.
       "Simple, just watch," said Billy Bob as he pulled to a stop and handed the trip ticket to the guard.
       "What you going to town for?" asked the guard.
       "Church bus," replied Billy Bob.
       "This is Friday. What kind of church has services on Friday night and who is in charge of the trip?" asked the guard.
       "It is some sort of a special Catholic service and Chaplain's Assistant Foreman, here is in charge," replied Billy Bob.
       The guard handed the trip ticket back to Billy Bob and we pulled away. "I've been called a lot of things before, but never a Chaplain's Assistant," I said.
       "Well, since this trip is to celebrate your birthday, I thought that I'd give you some of the credit," replied Billy Bob.
       We dropped off our hitch hikers in Marysville and rattled across the bridge over the Feather River into Yuba City, where we located the restaurant and parked the bus. Six of us, Billy Bob, Lester Price, Arthur Arthur Arthur, Red Ryder, Bobby Ward and I headed for the door.
       "Do you have a reservation?" asked the oily looking little character behind a desk at the door.
       "Course we do, Boomer party of six," said Billy Bob. "I called for a reservation a couple days ago."
       "Sorry," said the oily one, "I have no such party on the reservation list."
       "What do you mean, you have no such party on your list?" shouted Billy Bob. "Do you realize who you are talking to? Just because we happen to be unlucky enough to be wearing military uniforms doesn't mean that we aren't important people. I am Billy Bob Boomer, winner of the best all-round cowboy award at the Cheyenne Rodeo last year. This is Red Ryder, nationally known rattlesnake hunter and this is Arthur Arthur Arthur, a famous artist and Perry Como's nephew. We are all here to celebrate Chaplain's Assistant Foreman's birthday and we expect a table right now."
       "Well, just a minute, gentlemen," said the head waiter. "I'll see what I can do."
       A few minutes later, he returned, "I'm sorry for the error in your reservations. The owner told me that there would be a special party of six tonight, but he failed to give me the name. Please follow me, gentlemen."
       "See there," whispered Billy Bob. "You can cover up just about anything if you shovel on enough bullshit."
       We were shown past the long buffet table, piled high with foods from various oceans. There were bowls of boiled shrimp, plates of oysters, piles of crab legs and platters of fish of all kinds. A dozen or more kinds of salads filled one end of the table while breads and desserts occupied the other.
       We were seated at a table which was far nicer than the others in the room. China plates with gold edges were flanked by three forks, three spoons and two knives. Each place was set with a wine glass, two goblets and linen napkins folded in the shape of little sailboats.
       A waiter, who was wearing a plastic bow tie and a vest which was about two sizes too small, came to the table and told us with a strong French accent, "Gentlemen, my name is André and I will be your waiter tonight." He produced a match with a stick at least a foot long and lit several candles which stood in a brass candlestick in the middle of the table.
       "I thought that this was one of those helpy-selfy deals where we could eat all that we could hold for one price," said Red Ryder.
       "Oh, yes sir, this is our Friday night seafood buffet, but the management assigned me to this table as your personal waiter," replied André. "May I suggest a very nice 1939 vintage wine which was bottled under a private label and the owner keeps just for his special guests?"
       "Pour us a slug of it," said Billy Bob. "If the stuff is good enough for the guy who owns this place, then it is bound to be good enough for us. I always liked private stock, whether it was booze, horses or women."
       André returned with two very dusty bottles of wine, which he carried as if they might explode at any moment. He carefully removed the cork from one bottle and poured a small amount into a glass and handed it to Billy Bob.
       "Is that all that I get?" asked Billy Bob, looking at the swallow of wine in the bottom of the glass.
       "That is a sample of the wine to see if it meets with your approval, Sir," replied André.
       Billy Bob tossed down the wine in a single gulp, thought a minute and replied, "It ain't Lone Star Beer, but I suppose that if it's the best you got, it will have to do."
       André poured wine for each of us and said, "May I prepare your salads?"
       "Well, if that is your job, Andy, then go right ahead and whip up salads for us."
       "The name is André," corrected the waiter.
       "Whatever, I certainly don't want to be the one who knocks you out of work," replied Billy Bob.
       We finished our salads and André escorted us to the buffet table where we piled plates high with food. "Careful of those raw oysters," said Billy Bob. "They say that at least eight out of ten of them work and we might wake up so horny that we would be after anything that moves."
       When we returned to the table, Lester Price raised his glass and gave a toast,

       "Here's to Mahatma Gandhi,
       Who woke up one morning with a dandy.
       Called for his aide to send him a maid,
       A sheep, a goat or anything handy."

       We made countless trips to the buffet table while André opened a dozen or more dusty bottles of the 1939 vintage wine. He seemed to get a certain look of glee each time that a cork popped. Wine is like fog which will sneak slowly up on a person without their ever realizing. By this time, we were basking in the warm glow of fermented grapes and feeling no pain.
       "What are the house rules about how many times we can go back for more food?" asked Red.
       "I don't know, probably like down at the pool hall; one foot on the floor and one hour time limit," replied Billy Bob.
       "I've been up there after more shrimp so many times that I am getting ashamed of myself," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "People are beginning to stare at me, so I think that I'll crawl there this time so no one will notice."
       "The truth of the matter is that he's so drunk that he can't walk," said Bobby Ward.
       Arthur Arthur Arthur slid from his chair and, holding his plate in his teeth, crawled across the floor and under the buffet table. His hand crept from beneath the tablecloth and began to grope around for the elusive shrimp.
       André appeared instantly and tried to coax Arthur Arthur Arthur from his hiding place beneath the table while we roared with laughter. "Please Sir, you must come out from under there."
       "I've been back so many times that people are looking at me," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "I wanted to do it this way so no one would notice."
       "If you will come out from under the table, I will get you as many shrimp as you wish," said André, with a noticeable loss of his affected French accent.
       We became aware of a considerable commotion which was taking place at the door. Three couples were there and evidently rather unhappy with the situation. Two of the men were fat, fifty and bald while the other was a tall, lanky type who was wearing a Boss of the Plains Stetson and a fancy embroidered western suit which flashed with hundreds of sequins. They had three twenty year old fluffs with them, each wearing a fur coat and sun glasses. We seemed to have become the center of attention as most of them were pointing in our direction.
       The head waiter came to our table and said, "Gentlemen, there seems to have been a mistake and you will have to leave this table immediately."
       "Why should we give our table to those three guys and their chippies?" asked Billy Bob.
       "Because this table was reserved for them and I gave it to you by mistake," replied the head waiter. "I must insist that you leave immediately, or I will be forced to call the Military Police."
       "Come on, Billy Bob," I said. "We've been thrown out of nicer places than this before. They can just take the table and go cram it. If they throw us out, then we don't have to pay the check." With that, we got up and headed for the door.
       "Sir, your check," shouted André, who had completely lost his French accent in all the confusion.
       "Screw you and your check," shouted Billy Bob as we charged out the door. "If you want to throw us out and give those bastards our table, then give them the check too."
       We stumbled onto the bus and Billy Bob managed to get the engine running. André was waving the check in the air and trying to get the door of the bus open. "Youse worthless bastards owe me over two hundred bucks!" he shouted in his newly acquired accent, which somehow reminded us of Sergeant Schultz.
       "Two hundred bucks!" shouted Red Ryder as we pulled out of the parking lot with André still in hot pursuit. "That must have been some awfully expensive wine, but I say that nothing is too good for Foreman on his birthday. Happy birthday, you worthless damn Texan."
       We picked up several other soldiers who were hitching a ride back to the base and when Billy Bob pulled to a stop at the gate, the guard asked, "How did the church services go?"
       "They went great," replied Billy Bob. "Chaplain's Assistant Foreman must have saved a hundred lost souls.
       "Good for him," replied the guard. "By the way, did you happen to see six drunk soldiers while you were in town? We got a call from a restaurant in Yuba City that they ran out on a two hundred dollar check."
       "It is just terrible that there are men who would do such a thing and bring disgrace to all of us who so proudly wear the uniform of the United States," I replied. "As Chaplain's Assistant, I feel that it is my duty to lead us in silent prayer for these wayward men. Will everyone please lower their heads and offer a silent prayer for these lost souls."
       The guard lowered his head with us, and after several seconds, I said, "Amen, and bless them for they knew what they did."
       The guard handed the trip ticket back to Billy Bob and we drove away. "I hope to hell that this bus is well grounded," said Red Ryder. "Lightning is bound to strike any second now."


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